Check into over-the-counter drugs. Some medications—like antihistamines and heartburn drugs—that were once prescriptions are now sold OTC. For example, it may be worthwhile to switch from prescription Clarinex, which costs $115.99 on drugstore.com for a 30-day supply, to OTC Zyrtec, which is $19.99 on the same site, or Claritin, at $22.99. Zyrtec was prescription only until November, when the Food and Drug Administration approved it for OTC sale; Claritin has been sold OTC for several years.
Investigate prescription drug assistance programs. Doing so may mean free or nearly free medications, if you qualify. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America started the Partnership for Prescription Assistance program three years ago with the goal of "taking the mystery out of finding help" paying for medications, says Ken Johnson, senior vice president at PhRMA. The group's site offers questionnaires designed to help patients, caregivers, and doctors determine if a person is eligible for the program. Johnson says that qualification requirements vary, but a general rule of thumb is that those below 200 percent of the federal poverty level usually qualify for assistance, which typically includes a family of four making less than $40,000, a family of two making less than $24,000, and individuals making less than $19,000.
Request a medication review with your doctor or pharmacist. This accomplishes a few things, including making sure you're not taking drugs you no longer need and evaluating possibilities for cheaper medication alternatives, Silvester says. This is particularly good for people who take medications prescribed by multiple doctors. "It's always good to re-evaluate with one person," she says.
Sign up for a flexible spending account. FSAs, like those offered to federal employees, allow you to use pretax dollars to pay for medications and other healthcare expenses. Check with your employer's human resources department to find out if your office offers FSAs.